Dear Grandparenting: Bullies did their best to ruin my granddaughter’s whole school year. School is out and the bullies are gone. But they’ll be back in September and my granddaughter is already worried about what’s coming down on her next school year.
Everybody knows bullying goes on everywhere all the time. Every grandchild in America will be either bully, bullied or witness to it. Lord knows everybody talks about it. They talk about everything except how to stop it! It’s not like this bullying issue is brand new. It’s been a problem for years and it’s just getting worse. I don’t hear much about good solutions. Is there anything that really works to stop bullying? This is the kind of useful information grandparents really want to know. Reggie, Sidney, Ohio.
Dear Reggie: There’s no question the bullying epidemic is high on the agenda of schools and federal authorities. But most of the information they disseminate is about building greater awareness of the problem and creating a school culture that discourages bullying. Words like empathy, kindness, resilience and confidence are tossed about. The only thing missing is how to stop bullying once it starts.
But a recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could be the break-through that bumps bullies off their perch. The results of this research, which involved nearly 25,000 high school students, found that middle school students with more friends and acquaintances were highly effective at spreading the anti-bullying message.
Family members and teachers who preach about the horrors of bullying or recount the grim histories of children bullied into their graves, can certainly make a difference. But “influencers” — the more popular students — have the power to change the social norms of an entire school and reduce levels of interpersonal conflict, because other students observe and follow their actions. When influencers become the public face of a grassroots anti-bullying campaign at their school, other students report that the problem commands their greater attention.
Peer-to-peer communications generally have greater sincerity and authenticity. But influencers are successful for another reason, according to the study. Since they know best what’s behind the bullying, influencers are best suited to shape the content of the anti-bullying message. A conflict can be driven by a dispute between the football and soccer teams at one school, while racial problems may be at the root of bullying at a nearby school.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Claire Bear from Everett, Washington, understands that she’ll have to wait awhile before she can talk on the phone with her grandson, Louis, 1.
“I have my daughter put him on the phone just the same. He can hear my voice and I’m perfectly happy just listening to Louis breathing into the phone. You should try it!”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.